HAWAII AT WORK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
David Sherman is a warranty representative for D.R. Horton-Schuler Division, which in Hawaii builds about 500 homes a year. Above, Sherman last week showed Abraham and Melanie Popa one of the bathrooms in their new home in Maili. Behind him at left is Abraham; center, Melanie; and right, project superintendent Tilo Leiato.
Sherman helps customers feel right at home
David Sherman likes to show people around, especially if they've just bought a new home from his employer, D.R. Horton-Schuler Division
Who: David Sherman|
Title: Senior warranty representative
Job: Handles warranty-related concerns for new homebuyers
Sherman is a senior warranty representative for the homebuilder, and his job is to help orient the customers to their new homes, telling them about the construction features and amenities, as well as how to maintain them.
Sherman conducts the "walk throughs" for such customers at least once a week, and if the new homeowners have any questions, or if something goes wrong after they've moved in, Sherman's the guy they're supposed to ask to make sure their concerns are addressed.
Working out of an office in the garage of a model home at the company's 127-home Nohokai project in Maili, Sherman has been with D.R. Horton-Schuler Division for 12 years. Before that he was a concrete pumper with American Standard Concrete Pumping Hawaii Inc.
, which he joined after returning to Hawaii from the mainland in 1988.
Sherman had lived in Hawaii when he was younger, attending both Central Intermediate and Farrington High schools before his family moved to Los Angeles, where he graduated from Westchester High School. He also attended the University of Southern California for a year, "and then when the chance of the Alaska pipeline came along," he said last week, "I jumped on it."
"So I went to the Alaska pipeline, in 1974, and basically dropped out," he said. "I have no regrets. Sometimes your life takes you to places you never thought it would go."
Eventually, he said, Sherman saved enough money to come back to Hawaii, "and I've been here over 20 years now."
Sherman added that, "Our family is water people, so you might say our natural progression was to an island."
Sherman, 55, explained that he is the single parent of a 17-year-old daughter and twin 14-year-old sons, and they all love swimming, surfing and other water activities.
"I still compete in open-ocean swimming and surfing," he noted. "That keeps my mind and body in sync. It's the biggest stress-reliever you could ever have. It's wonderful."
Sherman and his children live in Kapolei, "but on the weekends," he added, "I stay at a place up in Pupukea, (his mother's and father's home), where I can be near the ocean."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
David Sherman takes care of any concerns that homeowners may have after they move into homes that were built by his employer. He ascended the stairs last week with Abraham and Melanie Popa at their new home in Maili.
What does it mean that you're the senior warranty representative for D.R. Horton-Schuler Division?
David Sherman: It means that I'm the go-to guy. It means that I have more experience in different situations than somebody with less time. It does not mean that I'm any better than anybody. It simply means I have more experience.
Are there other warranty representatives?
A: We have four or five now.
Q: What does the "warranty representative" part of your title mean?
A: My job description is that I handle, pretty much, the homeowner. I have, you might say, the roughest part of the job, yet the most fulfilling part of the job. Anytime you're dealing with anyone who spends at least a half-a-million dollars, you better know what you're talking about.
Q: What is the reason you're dealing with these people?
A: I do the homeowner-orientation tours, so I'm the point of contact. The first time they go into the brand-new home, I show 'em the home, I show 'em how all the systems operate, give them clues about which products work best in the home - cleaning, maintenance products. I also handle the warranties on the things after they move in.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Melanie pointed to where there needs to be a paint touch-up as Sherman affixed a piece of blue tape to mark the spot.
Like what kinds of warranties?
A: Anything in the house. Any concerns in the house after they move in, I handle. We don't have a lot of that, because we build really great houses, but no house is perfect, so if anything does come up, I'm the point of contact with them, and then I take care of that in a prompt manner.
Q: How would you do that?
A: Well, we have a Web site, so they go on the Web site and send in their concern, and I always validate it, that it's not something that the homeowners have brought upon themselves - but even if it is, I let them know what they can do to fix it anyway. I go over and above a little bit to help a lot. You need to establish trust with the homeowner. Once you establish trust, and you're proactive, the world is your oyster.
Q: What do the warranties cover?
A: We have a one-year warranty on the products in our houses, and a 10-year warranty on construction defects. If they need help in whatever, I'm here for any questions the homeowners have.
For instance, yesterday somebody called me and said, "I broke my cabinet, a cabinet drawer. I've lived here for five years, and I know you guys are not responsible, but what can I do?"
The company that built the cabinet was out of business, but I tracked down some replacement parts, so you might say I put people together. You always wanna end up in some kind of a win-win situation.
Q: How does this help the company for you to do this?
A: It helps the company by getting repeat sales and good surveys.
Q: Customer surveys?
A: Yeah. Customer surveys are important because it allows us to become a better company. We get the feedback, and then, if we can make a home better because of something a customer says, we'll do it. You might say we're working toward a perfect home.
Q: How long have you been with the company?
A: 12 years.
Q: What were you doing before you joined D.R. Horton?
A: I was in the construction business. I was a concrete pumper and a concrete inspector.
Q: Was that here in Hawaii?
A: Yes. So I've been in the construction business most of my life.
Q: Have you always been a warranty rep for D.R. Horton?
A: I started as a worker; I did the punch work for the company - I got the house ready to go. Then I worked my way up to customer service.
Q: The punch work - that's about going down a list, isn't it?
A: Yes, it is. You work off a list the construction crew makes after the quality-control check of the home.
Q: How many homes have you personally had walk-throughs for with their new owners?
A: Oh my God. I'm gonna say over a thousand.
Q: How many walk-throughs a week do you conduct?
A: Depending on the time of year and how busy it is, I can do up to 10 a week - five to 10 a week.
Q: How long does it take, a walk-through?
A: Anywhere between one and three hours. Everybody's different, and you try to coordinate the walk-through with the homeowner. You don't want to rush it.
Q: Where is your office?
A: My particular office is located in a garage of a model. We've got it fixed up. It's on Kaipoi Street, which is in the project known as Nohokai, in Maili - what we call Sea Country.
Q: What's a typical workday for you? I know you don't do walk-throughs all the time.
A: Basically, I drive through the project with my superintendent - his name is Tilo Leiato - to make sure everything looks good.
Then when I get to work, the first thing you do is you gotta answer all your previous day's calls - and I've got a lot of communication devices. I've got stuff that comes in, No. 1, from the couriers; No. 2., my business phone; No. 3, I've got my e-mail; and No. 4, I've got my cell phone. So I've got four forms (of communication) right there. Of course, I'm not unique with this. Everybody goes through that, but it makes me feel wanted, if nothing else. (Laughter)
So anyway, I do all the warranty requests that come in. So, if there was some caulking missing in the home, or a door lock that doesn't work, that's when I have to come back and deal with that as professionally as I know how. We'll contact the proper subcontractor and coordinate everything.
Q: Sounds like your job could be a lot of fun.
A: Well, it's nice to see the look on a person's face who's just bought a new home. They often almost break down crying, and sometimes you want to cry with them, so you might say it's a sensitive job. Buying a home is usually the biggest purchase a person will make in their life time. So you need to be sensitive, compassionate, and need to look through the eyes of the homeowner, to see what they're going through. That's my mantra.
Q: What kind of background do you have to have to do this kind of job?
A: You have to be patient. You have to be a good listener. Listening is a huge quality. A lot of people only listen to reply. You need to listen to understand.
Q: What's the most common problem that recent buyers of the D.R. Horton homes do call you about?
A: I get a lot of caulking issues. I get some grout issues. Sometimes the grout will come out.
Thankfully, we don't have a lot of big issues. I've never had a structural issue. It's one of the reasons I bought one of our homes myself.
Q: How big of a company is D.R. Horton?
A: D.R. Horton operates in about 40 states and has countless projects. There are hundreds of projects. California has got 10 or 20 divisions. In Hawaii, in particular, we operate on Kauai, Oahu, the Big Island and Maui.
Q: How many homes a year does the company build in Hawaii?
A: We build about 500 homes a year over here.
Q: Where in the islands is D.R. Horton building most right now?
A: Most of them right now are on the West side: Kapolei, Makakilo - and Maili. The prices are just so good right now. They're giving zero down, and, gosh, we're giving special incentives for military. It's a good time to buy.
Q: Has homebuilding slowed lately because of the economy?
A: A little bit. It's obviously due to the interest rates. But we're still doing quite well out here in Sea Country. People are still buying homes. Don't let the negative publicity that the press puts out put a hold on that. There's so much gloom and doom in the newspapers, it just makes me nuts. But in a down market, that's the best time to buy.